Bob Myers Legacy Lives on Through New ScholarshipPrint PDF
Still a teenager, Laura James just finished her freshman year at Central Michigan University and started her internship at The County Press. One of her early assignments was to cover a Monday night commission meeting at city hall.
Bob Myers, longtime owner of the Lapeer newspaper, gave her a strong warning before she left. If city commissioners tried to hide their business dealings behind closed doors, take their pictures, he said. Sure enough, someone moved to go into closed session that evening. Another commissioner supported the motion and the roll call vote began.
“I was scared. My hands were shaking,” Laura remembers. “I picked up that little Canon AE1and started pointing. All I had to do was point. That was the power of The County Press.”
The ruse worked. City commissioners knew her boss well and had a pretty good idea of how they would appear in Wednesday’s newspaper. The motion was retracted and the meeting stayed open to the public.
Laura’s stellar career at North Branch High School, fueled by a high grade point average and passion for writing helped her win the first journalism scholarship funded and awarded by Myers and his wife Lu in 1987. It was a full, four-year ride at CMU. She interned at The County Press again in the summer of 1989, when Myers was preparing to sell the newspaper owned by his family since 1920.
Phillips graduated from CMU, magna cum laude, in 1991. Unfortunately, the economy had tanked. Michigan was wallowing in the depths of a grim recession. She landed a job at the Macomb Daily and was soon laid off. Unable to find work in her chosen field, she entered the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. In 1994 she graduated summa cum laude and valedictorian of her class.
Twenty-one years later, her name is Laura James and she is a partner at Sullivan, Ward, Asher & Patton, P.C. of Southfield, one of the most prestigious law firms in Michigan. This high-powered attorney has 21 years of experience in personal injury litigation and specializes in Michigan’s no-fault laws. She handles medical malpractice cases, too.
“I worked for the same gentleman for two decades,” Laura said. “When he left a year ago, I made a lateral move that was quite an accomplishment. That’s when I felt I had finally made it. Not bad for a smalltown girl from the Thumb.”
Laura felt satisfied her life and career added up to success. And she was financially secure.
Over the years, she never lost her admiration for Bob Myers. Her respect. Her eternal gratitude.
“I find myself looking back a lot. I never would have gotten here if it hadn’t been for him,” she said. “I had a debt to pay and he’s not around so I’m passing it on to other kids who are like me.”
This fall she established the Robert Myers Scholarship for First Generation Students at University of Detroit Mercy. The first three recipients are:
• Vershay Berks, a junior from Southfield majoring in communications with a minor in business.
• Ahamad ElSayed, a freshman from Dearborn Heights with a major in business administration and a concentration in international business.
• Collin Joseph Evans, a freshman from Howell majoring in science.
The students each receive a $1,000 scholarship that will be renewed annually if their grade point averages remain high. Laura said she received kind thank you notes. Ahamad said he hoped to follow in her footsteps and establish a scholarship of his own one day.
“Even if only one of them does that,” said Laura, “the Bob Myers legacy moves on.”
Credit: The County Press